On today's date in 1847, Giuseppe Verdi conducted the premiere performance of his newest opera, I Masnadieri or The Robbers, at Her Majesty's Theater in London. And speaking of her Majesty, Queen Victoria was in the audience, as were other state dignitaries, including the Duke of Wellington and Louis Napoleon of France.
It was the first time in over twenty years that a world-famous composer had composed an opera specifically for London. As one of Verdi's young assistants put it, "Neither Rossini, Bellini, or Donizetti had ever pitched their tents on the banks of the Thames."
As an added attraction, the 27-year old Swedish nightingale, soprano Jenny Lind, topped an all-star line-up of singers. It was Jenny Lind's London debut and the first time ever that an operatic role had been specially-written for her
The premiere was a great success for all concerned, with Verdi and the singers called to the stage again and again to cheers from the audience. The critics, for their part, were less than kind.
"We take this to be the worst opera that has been given in your time at Her Majesty's Theater," wrote one. "There does not exist an Italian composer more incapable of producing what is commonly called melody." I Masnadieri fared a little better back in Italy, but gradually faded from the active repertory until the revival of interest in all of Verdi's opera in the 20th century.
Music Played in Today's Program
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) I masnadieri Overture Hungarian State Opera Orchestra; Iper Giorgio Morandi, conductor. Naxos 8.554077
On This Day
1822 - Italian composer Luigi Arditti, in Crescentino, Piedmont
1870 - Austrian composer Josef Strauss, age 42, in Vienna;
1833 - Cherubini: opera,"Ali Baba," at Paris Opéra
1844 - Wagner: "A Faust Overture," in Dresden
1847 - Verdi: opera "I Masnadieri" (The Bandits), in London at Her Majesty's Theater
1919 - Manuel de Falla: ballet, "The Three Cornered Hat," in London, by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe
1930 - Chavez: ballet "The Four Suns," in Mexico City;
1934 - Cowell: "Movement" for string quartet (String Quartet No. 2), at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., by the Pro Arte String Quartet
2000 - London premiere of Colin Matthews: "Pluto - The Renewer" (intended as a contribution to Gustav Holst's "The Planets"), at a BBC Proms concert; This music was first performed on May 11, 2000, by the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, with Kent Nagano conducting
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About Composers Datebook®
Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.
He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.